Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sur le Pont d'Avignon

On our recent trip to Avignon, we thought we'd better take a stroll along the city's iconic bridge (remembering to turn around after the fourth arch, of course, when the structure, the victim of flood damage, suddenly ends). Does it live up to all the song and dance about it? Click here to read more.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Avignon on Wheels

Walking around Avignon should be a cinch - after all, the walled city is compact and contained. However, after I'd spent a day wobbling along the cobbled streets and climbing up and down the steep, winding staircases of the Palais des Papes, sitting back and relaxing on wheels seemed like a more and more attractive option. If this applies to you too, then be sure to bookmark our complete guide to how to zip around Avignon by local transport - everything from a Vélopop (that's a bicycle to you and me) to a Baladine (electric bus, pictured above in its red Christmas livery -- it's normally a bright eco-friendly green). Click here to read more.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

There Is Such A Thing As A Free Lunch

In Avignon recently, I very quickly learned (as you do) where the locals go for a great free lunch. In Les Halles, Avignon's excellent covered market (which bears no relationship at all to its bland Paris namesake), you will find a cornucopia of fantastic produce at all times. Every Saturday morning, however, a leading chef, such as Richard Bagnol (pictured) of L'Oulo in nearby Mazan, clocks in to give a cookery demonstration at the "petite cuisine" or "little kitchen" set up in a corner of the market specifically for the purpose. Then the onlookers get to eat his results, accompanied by a wine tasting from a local vintner. Click here to read more.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Goatherd-Poet of Le Rove

My local goatherd  is quite a character. He is the last herder in the village and makes a cheese, Brousse du Rove, from the milk which is much-prized by Michelin-starred restaurants in the area. On the side, he's a poet, novelist, writer of comic songs about Provence and founder of the illustrious Golden Goat Association. I interviewed him recently for EasyJet magazine. Click here to read more.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Secret Tour of the Palais des Papes

In Avignon this weekend, we were invited on a rare private visit, behind the scenes, to the "secret" parts of Palais des Papes. The official tour takes you to the Palais's public areas. But this was a privileged peak into how the pontiffs actually lived from day to day. It's on offer, in English, until 14 October. Click here to read more.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Haute Cuisine Meets The Humble Tomato

French chefs are renowned for their ingenuity. Some offer entire menus based around the truffle; for others foie gras or lobsters are the star ingredient of choice. But, for Christian Etienne, the tomato is his fetish-ingredient. For eleven years, the Michelin-starred chef has offered an ever-changing, endlessly inventive seven-course menu at his Avignon restaurant celebrating this everyday provençal fruit. Click here to read more.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

When Hollywood Goes To Provence...

A few months ago, I posted a piece on the ten best movies about Provence. Perhaps it should not have come as a surprise that all of them - from Jean de Florette to An Autumn Tale - were French. Well, I thought, I'd better add in a few films for readers who hate subtitles. And then I had an amazingly difficult time rustling up even five movies. Whereas the Côte d'Azur is highly cinegenic, the area west of Toulon seems to have been totally disdained by British and American directors - with a handful of exceptions. Here are the ones I came up with. Click here to read more.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Flyers' Guide to Toulon-Hyères Airport

En route back from a long, hedonistic lunch in Cagnes sur Mer, we decided to stop off and take a look at Toulon-Hyères airport. Now, normally we always fly through Marignane, aka Marseille-Provence, but I was curious to see this much smaller airport in case we ever have to use it instead. It was quite a pleasant surprise: lavishly appointed, thanks to its origins as a military facility, a lot more relaxed than either Marseille or Nice, beautifully located --- and just five minutes' walk from the beach, if you ever felt like catching some rays on a swift day trip! Click here to read more.